Thanksgiving Day and “Save the Children” on orphans–again!

I have been thinking about the name itself–Save the Children! No wonder this “children’s charity” gets worldwide attention for its every utterance–even if totally off base. This time, Save the Children has released what it is calling “research” results to indicate that most orphans have living parents and that the contrary view is a myth. The main problem with this “new” information is that everyone already knows about it. No one with any involvement in children’s issues believes that most children in institutions are without living parents. The idea that people do generally think that is itself a myth. But here goes the world’s press—reacting in awe to these comments….

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/24/2751953.htm?section=australia

We know that Save the Children has been vehemently opposed to international adoption–explicitly and on the record–for years. I have never been able to understand why they are accepted as an expert in this matter. Like UNICEF, they are not set up to deal with this issue. Many who support them are not aware of how much energy they expend in opposing adoption. The latest “report” focuses on the exploitation of children with living parents by, yes, orphanages.

The report notes what we all know–that children who grow up in institutions often encounter tragic, frightening life outcomes. Having opposed international adoption, knowing that adoptive parents cannot be found domestically in adequate numbers in most countries, and filling a child welfare policy vacuum (where is the expert international body I keep calling for?), Save the Children now blames…orphanages.

The problem with the Save the Children/Unicef view of the social orphan problem (or one of the problems–there are many) is that it is so doctrinaire and simplistic. They fail to differentiate between policies needed to deal with children who become detached from original families because of poverty per se, and children who are not brought up in those families because of other, complex social factors. They fail to admit that they are incapable of carrying out the investments needed to accomplish mass scale family reunification. They rely on broad and sweeping charges against everyone in the various systems–except, of course, themselves and the governments they are trying to influence.

The upshot? Foster care–foster care!!! The BBC reported this week on foster care in Russia–one home it showed (and there is virtually no international access on these matters) had eight children crowded into a house or apartment–it was not looking very good for those children. Anyone who believes that children who are unlikely to be reunited with original families should, as a matter of children’s rights, go into foster care rather than an adoption system, is living in some bizarre and even cruel fantasy land….

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2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Day and “Save the Children” on orphans–again!

  1. While I truly admire your unquestioned devotion to social justice on this topic, I think that your rant against foster care is a bit misplaced. You seem to be suggesting that the international community and/or state governments are offering foster care as a preferential alternative to adoption. I think that this is clearly not the case. Foster care is the preferred alternative to institutionalized care.

    I would also suggest that you read the book titled, “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption” edited by Jane Jeong Trenka. It is a series of essays written by intercountry and transracial adoptees that presents a much more complex and multifaceted treatment of intercountry adoption than is typically presented by adoption advocates and critics alike.

    Best of luck with your work.

    • Many thanks for your comment–nice to hear from you. I take some exception to the use of the word “rant”–as that implies uninformed denunciation–and from my point of view, over-reliance on (paid stranger) foster care is causing some terrible life outcomes for children. In the United States, multiple foster care placements can be linked to all sorts of negative psychological effects.
      I have always said that foster care has an important role to play for certain children–older children who already have genuine links to a community when they lose their original family ties–those with networks of very close friends–or extended family who visit and provide emotional sustenance–but I cannot see how foster care makes sense for very young children who have no real chance for family reunification and who are still so small that the immediate world is much more significant than the cultural community–at least where adoption is available.
      And I strongly disagree that foster care is not being offered as an alternative to adoption–in the former Soviet Union in particular, it most definitely is–and often at the behest of the intl child welfare bodies. I have offered my draft social orphan protocol to the UNCRC so that the international community can rethink and regularize the approach to these options–and I fully accept that where family reunification is at all possible, it should be the first port of call for social efforts. I believe that the human rights implications of foster care–where it involves sending children into the homes of strangers who are being paid to provide the care–and where it is being presented as the “child rights”-based alternative to adoption–are quite frightening. All determinations should be individualized and all options should be available depending on these assessments.
      Thanks again for writing!
      SD

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